smart meters
Image: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is to review market rules to see what more can be done to help customers benefit from smart meters.

The review will assess what might be needed for increased uptake of smart meters, and whether the roles and responsibilities around metering under current rules need revising.

It also will look at what else might be needed to drive retail innovation so that smart meters can propel the future energy market towards one that is ‘two-sided’, i.e. in which users are both producers and consumers of energy.

The review comes three years after the introduction of new rules around competition in metering, including transferring responsibilities for metering away from distribution network service providers.

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The energy data journey

These reforms were designed to increase competition, encourage new products, services and pricing to benefit consumers, and give them better information about their energy use.

The landscape has changed significantly in the past three years but smart meter use has not accelerated to the degree some people expect, the AEMC says. However, the technology will be integral to work now under way to help Australia’s power system transition, including integrating distributed energy resources such as solar PV, electric vehicles and battery technology.

The consultation paper states that 1.04 million smart meters had been installed across the National Electricity Market (NEM) excluding Victoria by October 2020. This corresponds to a penetration of 17.4% with a range from 16% in the Australian Capital Territory up to 20% in Tasmania.

Of these, the greatest proportion, over 37%, were customer initiated while almost a quarter were meter replacements, another quarter new connections and just 14% new meter deployments.

The AEMC says it did not have specific expectations relating to the speed of the rollout but it expected that a competitive deployment would be more efficient than under the previous framework. However, initial discussions with stakeholders have indicated that in many cases their expectations on the rollout were not met and that more smart meters should have been deployed by now.

Stakeholders also indicated that they expected services such as remote re-energisation and de-energisation and meter reading to be available to market participants at premises where smart meters have been installed. However, safety regulations have thus far limited this service being utilised.

Smart meter review issues

The review is intended to be broader than originally envisaged when the metering reforms were first drafted back in 2015 and will encompass the entire framework governing metering.

Key areas of focus will include the current state of smart meters in the NEM, whether the expected benefits are being realised where smart meters have been installed and if there are barriers to either the rollout of smart meters or their expected uses.

The review will also consider the future of metering services including the services smart meters may be expected to deliver in the future and the desired role of smart meters in the future.

The consultation will run until 11 February 2021, after which the AEMC will develop recommendations and possible rule changes to regulation.

Australia’s NEM operates in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.